05/28/10 — Worleys thank community for support and good wishes

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Worleys thank community for support and good wishes

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 28, 2010 1:46 PM

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News-Argus file photo

Don Worley poses at his workbench at Don's Florist. Worley is battling leukemia. Hundreds of local residents turned out for a fundraiser Saturday to wish him well and to offer their support.

Patti Worley paused when she felt her eyes filling with tears.

"They came from everywhere and every person had a story to tell," she said of the hundreds who converged last weekend on the flower shop she and her husband, Don, have been running for more than 30 years. "Don loved hearing those tales. It was just overwhelming. He came back in the shop and cried."

What unfolded Saturday was supposed to be a simple fundraiser -- a chance for Goldsboro and Wayne County residents to say thank you to the proprietor of Don's Florist, a man known for helping those in need.

But Patti said what happened along Spence Avenue that afternoon was something "indescribable" -- if not "powerful."

"It was just amazing how the community came together," she said. "When we got home, Don said if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn't have believed it."

The line of people that was wrapped around the building for the duration of the event seemed to grow as the hours passed.

And when the Worleys twice ran out of barbecue -- barbecue plates were among the items being sold to raise money to help Don as he battles leukemia -- those waiting stayed.

They didn't really seem to care about the meal, Patti said.

They just wanted to spend a few minutes with Don, a person each said touched their lives in one way or another at some point over the last several decades.

"He said, 'I didn't realize I was that well known and loved in this community,'" Patti said. "God, I have just never seen anything like it. You felt pure love inside this shop."

Some of those who came in said they have memories of walking out of Don's shop with a red carnation decades ago -- Don is known for giving each woman who graces his shop a free flower -- and showed up to return the favor.

Others recalled the care with which the Worleys put together arrangements for their loved ones' weddings and funerals.

"The people he's helped, it went across generations," Patti said. "Most of our customers, we talk to on the phone, so you just never would have realized that."

And a few simply heard that one of their neighbors was in need -- and responded in the same way Don did during Operation Desert Storm, when he offered to mow lawns and fix cars for spouses of deployed airmen he had never met.

"We had people come in who I had never met before and Don either didn't know them or didn't remember them," Patti said. "They just came in from all over."

Walking slowly from the back office -- where a man who used to be known for making every delivery now spends the majority of each business day -- to the front of his shop, Don talked about just what it meant to him to see so many people turn out for the event designed to help him during his cancer battle.

"I just couldn't believe all these people cared two cents about me," he said.

"Everybody cares about you, honey," Patti replied, placing her hand on his.

Deep down, she knows just how tough Don will have to be to endure.

But she finds peace in knowing that whatever the outcome, her husband is loved -- that prayers from across the county, state and country will keep their family strong.

And even though they raised several thousand dollars at that fundraiser, Patti insists the money isn't what matters.

Not anymore.

"It's not the money," she said, again wiping tears from her eyes. "It's the love. It's the prayers. It's the cards. It's people showing Don just how much he means to this community."

Don smiled.

"It really was something," he said. "You had to see it to believe it."

Those who still wish to make a donation to the Don Worley Benefit Fund can stop by Don's Florist on Spence Avenue.

"We just want to thank everyone for all they have done," Patti said. "It was just so amazing."